Gospel Tracts in the Hands of your Church Family: Two Marks of a Faithful Messenger
When it comes to your church gospel tracts, content is key. Above all else, you want to make sure that your tracts clearly present the gospel.
There is more than one way to present the plan of salvation, but there are certain truths that are essential to communicating it biblically.
So content is the priority. You need to get the message right.
But that’s just the starting point. Next, you have to think about what might distract from that message. That’s why the design of your gospel tracts matters. If the design is outdated or cluttered, it will distract from the message.
Design matters because bad design distracts from the good news.
But there is something else that is even more likely to distract from the message. And that’s the messengers.
It’s almost impossible to separate the message from the messenger.
If you want to equip your church to confidently share the gospel, you need to do more than just put gospel tracts in the hands of your people.
They need more than new resources. They need someone to to train, teach, and model the qualities that are necessary for people to be effective evangelists.
All Christians are witnesses, not merely couriers. Their task is not to dispassionately deliver a message. Their task is to boldly and joyfully bear witness to the transforming grace of God.
As witnesses, we must learn to communicate the gospel in different ways to different groups without losing the heart of the message. We must be intensely committed to being both doctrinally sound and culturally discerning.
And this is a very difficult path to walk, because we are hopelessly prone to run into the ditches on either side of this road.
Some churches are too aware of the culture. They are so eager for the approval of the culture that they are willing to sacrifice truth to get it. In the end, their decisions exposes a lack of confidence in the gospel. For them, the plain and pure gospel is not enough. It needs to be dressed up. it needs to be made more palatable or attractive.
Other churches are not aware of the culture at all. They fall in love with their own traditions and preferences, and they confuse them with doctrines. Their decisions expose a lack of love for their neighbors. Instead of looking for new ways to get the gospel to those who need it most, they place unnecessary roadblocks in the way of unbelievers.
Again, it’s a hard line to walk. But to be an effective witness, we must avoid both of those ditches.
We want to attract our culture. But we also want to confront it.
We want to fight the idols of our culture. But we also want to point out that they are often seeking good things – things that can only be found in Christ.
We want our message to be understandable, yes. But we also want it to be compelling.
We’re trying to avoid the two errors we talked about earlier. We don’t want to love the culture so much that we sacrifice the truth, and we don’t want to ignore the culture so much that we needlessly hinder people from coming to Christ.
Tim Keller puts it this way: "Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend.”
As long as the gospel can be preached without compromise, we should be willing to compromise our preferences and traditions for the sake of reaching more people.
In the bible, the Apostle Paul is a great example of someone who was able to keep this balance. He’s the one who said that he was willing to be made all thing to all men so that he might reach them (1 Corinthians 9:22).
But the reason he did this is so important. Paul didn’t adapt to the culture so that he could avoid giving them the truth. He adapted to the culture so that he could speak the truth with clarity and power.
Many times, when Christians talk about being culturally relevant, it’s nothing more than a smoke screen for worldliness. They love the world, and they want to be like the world.
But there is a biblical motivation for being culturally relevant. Paul demonstrates this again and again. Our desire should be to remove as many hindrances to the gospel as possible. If the Bible doesn’t require it, we don’t want it to keep people from coming to Christ.
In chapter 6 of their book, authors Andy Naselli and J.D. Crowley call this “gospel flexibility”. It requires a great deal of discernment, and it requires that we develop biblical qualities that will help us navigate the cultural context where God has placed us.
So what are the qualities that God uses in His witnesses? What are the marks of a faithful messenger?
There are really just two of them. You need to be loving and truthful. Just two ingredients - love and truth.
And you need both.
Many people try to pit these qualities against each another. They don’t see any necessary connection between truth and love. But as Christians, we must make understand that they are essentially connected.
There is no love without truth. And there should not be any truth without love.
So let’s look at how these qualities should shape our witness.
Truth is essential to the Christian faith.
We are saved by the truth.
We are sanctified by the truth.
We are set free by the truth.
We worship in the truth.
We speak the truth.
We obey the truth.
Apart from God’s truth, revealed for us in His Word, we would not know Christ at all.
But as we consider truth, we must also notice how it is connected to love, because again, you can’t consider one without the other.
So how do we make this connection? We might say it this way: truth is the boundary of love. It defines what is loving and what is not.
God’s truth is not at odds with love. 1 Corinthians 13:6 tells us that “love rejoices in the truth”.
Now, it does matter how we use the truth (we’ll get to that next). It’s not enough to have the right answers. You need to love others. But this is important: it’s not even possible to have love without truth. There is no such thing.
We cannot say we love anyone if we are unwilling to speak the truth to them.
In our culture, this task of loving others with the truth is more difficult than ever. If you try to take a stand for truth today, you will undoubtedly face opposition. If you claim to have absolute truth – truth that is true for everyone – you will be labeled hateful, bigoted, and intolerant.
But our culture does not get to define those words. God does.
Think about it. What is hate? It’s the opposite of love, right? So it is the opposite of love is to lie about what is true. There is nothing loving about lying to someone about God or the world He has made. To lie about something that monumentally important is the epitome of hatred.
Don’t let the culture define your terms. Don’t let them tell you what is loving and what is hateful. Don’t let them tell you what is hypocritical and what is authentic. Don’t let them tell you what is intolerant and what is tolerant.
We must allow God’s Word to define those things for us.
And Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
You can’t get much more narrow-minded and intolerant than that. His claim was to be the exclusive way to God, the exclusive source of truth, and the exclusive access point to eternal life.
Jesus meets us where we are and tells us the truth about ourselves – that we are desperate sinners deserving of judgment. And when we are ready to hear that truth, we will be ready to hear the good news that comes with it. Jesus died for sinners. He offers to take our sin and judgment and give us His righteousness and life.
This is why the content of your gospel tracts matters so much. It must contain the truth of the gospel. This message must not be compromised.
The heart of the gospel message includes incredibly exclusive statements about Jesus Christ and incredibly personal invitations for people to repent and believe.
So truthfulness and honesty is an essential trait for a messenger of the gospel. Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin.
If we understand that truth is the boundary of love, then love would be a defense against deception. Love guards against the lies that would deceive and harm others.
This is very different than how we normally think of love. We normally think of love as a passive emotion. It’s something that we can’t control. That’s why people talk about "falling in love”.
But biblically, love is active.
Sometimes, acting in love means acting with urgency. It may involve speaking the truth, even when it will be perceived as unloving. But we must not use use the call to urgency as an excuse for impatience. Since we already understand and believe the truths we are sharing, we struggle with the hesitancy and doubt of those who do not. This kind of urgency is rooted in selfishness and pride, not love.
The key here is our motive. Why are you pressing for a response? Why are you pushing for a decision? Are you frustrated, angry, or impatient? Are you looking for a fight?
Evangelism is not about winning the argument. It’s about winning the person.
If love is not guiding your words and actions, it may not matter if what you’re telling that person is true. They’re probably not even listening. All they hear is noise.
As always, it’s about our motives – our hearts. If our goal is to love our neighbor, if our desire is to help those who are seeking for the truth, and if we are willing to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in that conversation, we will be able to speak the truth in love.
We will love the truth, which means that we will not do anything to compromise it. And we will love the other person, which means that we will gladly do anything we can to make that message more understandable and more relevant to them.
So truth and love together will help us faithfully carry the message of the gospel to anyone in anyplace at anytime.
And if you’re looking for a great example of what it looks like to patiently and lovingly go after the hearts of those who are separated from God. Just look at Jesus.
You may need to go out of your way to give out gospel tracts to your neighbors.
You may need to answer some questions that you feel our silly or off-topic.
You may need to spend extra time helping someone sift through all of the baggage of their spiritual experiences.
But in the end, you will not have done even a fraction of what Christ did for you.
To reach you, the King left his throne.
To answer your questions, the Word became flesh.
To deal with your spiritual baggage, the blameless one took your penalty.
We are witness of this great love and mercy. Let’s be faithful witnesses.